A love letter to Florida: DeFuniak author pens second novel

Jennie McKeon

The latest book from DeFuniak Springs resident Harry Saunders is only half true.

Derived from adventures he had — and some he wish he had experienced — Saunders tells the story of two young men who embark on a canoe trip right before college in "Teenagers on an Adventure." Their journey begins on the Kissimmee River, where they witness illegal harvesting of alligator skins and egret bird feathers. After being captured by poachers — along with a love story intertwined — the young men have quite a story to tell once they make it home.

"It started out as a travel journal," Saunders said. "I used Bill [the protagonist] as my alias. The book includes a lot of things I have done and a lot I wish I had done."

Growing up, Saunders developed a love for the outdoors. Through the Boy Scouts to serving in the Navy during World War II, he's enjoyed going on traveling and exploring.  For "Teenagers on an Adventure," he took his love for the outdoors and his experiences and weaved them into a fictitious, exciting tale. The story's heroes travel through Florida, to the deserts and jungles of Africa, all the way to a pirate's territory in the Mediterranean Sea before the story's end.

"About 50 percent of it is true," Saunders said — not divulging which half is from experience. "I wish I had done all of it, but I couldn't, so I wrote about it."

Saunders has been a writer for most of his 87 years through journals and detailed letters to his daughters. However, he never thought to pen his first novel until five years ago. It was at the urging of his daughter Cindy.

"She told me 'Why don't you write about your adventures?' " Saunders recalled.

And so he did, with "Teenagers on an Adventure," hitting bookshelves this past February.

Saunders, a Florida resident for the past 25 years, said his book could be considered a love letter to Florida through his imagery — it is where the story starts after all.

Saunders' writing process is all about having fun, whether it's writing down a daydream or reminiscing fond memories.

"When you get old, you daydream. And if you're a writer like me, you write it down," he said. "I've had fun remembering all of the things I've done."

The novel's demographic is primarily young readers, but Saunders said any adventurer, or adventurer at heart, can enjoy this book.

"It's pure entertainment," he said.

Saunders said he takes pleasure in retirement and getting to do the things he's always wanted to do — like writing.

"I'm enjoying my life of leisure," he said. "I'll continue to keep putting my thoughts down in black and white."